We’re always griping on this page about the routine failures of government. We make no apologies for relentlessly demanding excellence from politicians and bureaucrats, which we do to defend the interests of our readers.
Sometimes local government gets it right, and the Southern Delivery System is shaping up as a great example.
The 62-mile, billion-dollar pipeline will push water uphill from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs and points between. From its inception, city politicians and employees of Colorado Springs Utilities have said the much-needed project would be a hefty new expense for ratepayers. A series of 12 percent rate increases, planned through 2016, would double the average monthly water bill from $40 to $80. That’s $480 a year for the average customer. While it may not sound traumatic to some, we can assure you that’s an enormous burden to those who struggle to stay in their homes, pay the bills and keep food on the table. No one in city government tried to downplay the expense or suggest that it wouldn’t cause pain.
On Wednesday, the story changed. Usually it’s a bad thing for financial news to change in the middle of a massive public works project. Ratepayers have long feared a day when city officials would announce a litany of cost overruns that would cause even greater rate hikes. That’s the scenario so many in Colorado Springs bet on. Some of the most outspoken SDS critics said the pipeline would be Colorado’s version of Boston’s Big Dig — a transportation project initially estimated at $2.8 billion, which was finished 10 years late at a cost of $14.6 billion.
New reports on Wednesday were quite the opposite. Low interest rates, efficiency engineering, smart contracts and low bids mean the SDS is so far below budget that rate increases could be only half of what were expected. Instead of ultimate increases of $40 a month on average, Utilities officials believe the increases may be only $20 a month.
“That’s money that our ratepayers can now spend on other things,” said City Councilman Bernie Herpin.
“The best word I can think of is ‘thrilled,’” said Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin.
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Everyone should share in her excitement. SDS means Colorado Springs will continue to grow and prosper for generations into the future. The cost savings mean this investment will cause less burden on residents and leave millions of dollars in the pockets of consumers. The savings will circulate through our local economy to help pay wages, profit businesses and fund local government.
We thank and congratulate the City Council and all employees of Colorado Springs Utilities and SDS for extraordinary service to the public.
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